March 2009 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

“Swimming Dragon Plays with Water”, an important pattern in the Dragon Strength Set

Question 1

You once called the Shaolin pattern “Kitten Wipes Face”, “Cloud Hands”.Does this mean “Cloud Hands” is in Shaolin? Is “Kitten Wipes Face” aShaolin equivalent of “Cloud Hands”?

— Sifu Jamie, Scotland

Answer

Yes, “Cloud Hands” is in Shaolin,. In fact, deducing from what I have read in kungfu classics, I believe that “Cloud Hands” was originally a Shaolin term, though I do not have definite evidence for this conclusion.

Many names of Taijiquan patterns came directly from Shaolin, like “Green Dragon Emerges from Water”, “Embracing Moon in Bosom”, “Golden Cockerel Stands Solitarily” and “White Snake Shoots Venom”.

However, “Cloud Hands”, like “taming-hand” and “organ-seeking kick”, refers to a particular type of techniques rather than a specific pattern. “Kitten Wipes Face” is one specific pattern that can implement the technique of “Cloud Hands”.

Another pattern which implements the technique of “Cloud Hands” is “Separate Clouds to See Sun”, which is quite like “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” except it is much softer.

Nevertheless, the Chinese do not use language in a compartmentalized way. Although “Cloud Hands” refers to a technique, in Taijiquan it may also refer to a particular pattern.

So, the answer to your question whether “Kitten Wipes Face” is a Shaolin equivalent of Taijiquan “Cloud Hands” is “yes and no”. Yes, if we regard “Cloud Hands” as a pattern, but no if we regard “Cloud Hands” as a particular type of techniques, in which case “Kitten Wipes Face” is only one of the patterns that can implement “Cloud Hands”.

To make the issue more confusing, or interesting, if we regard “Cloud Hands” as a pattern, as in Yang Style Taijiquan for example, we can also argue that “Kitten Wipes Face” is not its Shaolin equivalent, because the hand movements of “Cloud Hands” are usually performed from inside out, whereas those of “Kitten Wipes Face” are usually performed from outside in. In other works, in “Cloud Hands” the right hand moves in a clockwise direction, and the left hand in an anti-clockwise direction, whereas it is the other way round in “Kitten Wipes Face”.

If we regard “Cloud Hands” as a particular type of techniques, we can also argue that “Kitten Wipes Face” is its Shaolin equivalent. This is because in some Shaolin styles, like some Hoong Ka schools, moving the hands like in “Cloud Hands” is collectively called “Kitten Wipes Face”, irrespective of whether the hands move in clockwise or anti-clockwise directions. In some other Shaolin schools, it is called “Circular Hands”.

We can learn a valuable lesson from these “yes-no” answers. Often heated arguments arise because those involved do not realize these yes-no possibilities.

Some notable examples can be found in our Discussion Forum. Many distractors honestly believe that chi is not real, and kungfu cannot be used for fighting because they base their answers on their onw limited experience. They may be honest, but they are not humble enough to listen to and benefit from those who are willing to share invaluable knowledge and experience with them.

Cloud Hands

Sifu Jeffrey Segal performing “Cloud Hands”

Question 2

Can a Shaolin set begin with the original principle of formless “CloudHands” using “Kitten Wipes Face”?

Answer

Yes, it can. There is no limitation on how a kungfu set should begin so long as it is beneficial.

Nevertheless, it would be better to begin with “Separate Clouds to See Sun” where the hand movements are from inside out, than with “Kitten Wipes Face” where the hand movements are from outside in. Do you know why?

When hand movements are from outside in, chi tends to be locked up in the chest, but when the movements are from inside out, the chest expands and the heart opens.

We may not be much affected by the outside-in movements because we are skillful enough to let the chi still flow, but beginners would lock up their chi without their conscious knowing.

Question 3

If the answer to the above question is 'yes', is that what I see at the start of the Dragon Strength Set?

Answer

Again the answer is yes and no. It is yes if we take “Cloud Hands” as a class of techniques where the hand movements generate chi flow. It is no if we limit the meaning of “Cloud Hands” to the name of a pattern.

As in all other Shaolin sets, the Dragon Strength Set starts with bringing chi from the Cosmos to the dan tian. The practitioner than moves into the Horse-Riding Stance and begins with the patterns “Double Lifting of Sun and Moon”. “Phoenix Spreads Wings” and “Cross-Roads Separate Gold”. “Cloud Hands” as a pattern is not found in the set, but “Cloud Hands” as a class of techniques is prevalent throughout.

But after performing the initial patterns in the Horse-riding Stance for force training, the practitioner performs “Spiritual Dragons Roll Sky”. On the other side, again after performing the force training patterns, the practitioner performs “Whirlwind Smashes Waves”. Both “Spiritual Dragon Roll Sky” and “Whirlwind Smashes Waves” are the type of techniques called “Cloud Hands” in Taijiquan.

When I first learned the Dragon Strength Set from Uncle Righteousness, I performed the beginning patterns with clenched fists. Later, having learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I changed the clenched fists to open palms because this faciliated better chi flow.

It is also worthy to note that in Uncle Righteousness' school, “Double Lifting of Sun and Moon” refers to the pattern when a practitioner sits in a Horse-Riding Stance and lifts both his hands in front of him. This pattern is also called the same name in the Hoong Ka schools from the lineage of the great master, Sifu Lam Sai Weng. You can find a picture of this pattern in Sifu Lam Sai Weng's classic, “Tiger and Crane Double Forms Set”. But in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam's school “Double Lifting of Sun and Moon” refers to the pattern where a practitioner stands upright and lifts both his palms along the sides of his body to breast level.

The occurrence of the same name for different patterns, or the same pattern in different names is not uncommon in kungfu. We have a few examples in our school. Striking out a right level fist in a right Bow-Arrow Stance is called “Single Dragon Emerges from Sea” in Uncle Righteousness' school, but called “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, irrespective of whether the Bow-Arow Stance is in right or left mode, in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam's school. To resolve the complications, I use the name “Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley”. We haven't resolve the name “Double Lifting of Sun and Moon” yet, but will do so in due time.

Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom

The Taijiquan pattern “White Snake Shoots Venom” originated from this Shaolin pattern “Poisonous Snake Shoots Venom”, posed by Grandmaster Wong in his younger days

Question 4

Regarding the three factors for consideration in composing a set — 1. Aims & Objectives; 2. Scope & Depth; 3. Resources Available — can I take patterns from Tai Chi Chuan to use in my Shaolin set?

Answer

Of course, you can. In fact you can take patterns from any martial arts, but you must have good reasons for doing so.

Often you may have to modify the form so that it follows the established form of Shaolin. This is not to hide the fact that you have borrowed the pattern from another martial art, but to minimize its setbacks and enhance the advantages of the form. Take the knee jab from Muay Thai for an example.

If you perform the knee jab as in Muay Thai, you will expose yourself dangerously. Your opponent can easily gorge your eyes or grip your groin. Such drastic counter-attacks are not permitted in Muay Thai — a fact many martial artists often neglect — but in kungfu or real fighting there are no safety rules. So, if you wish to add the Muay Thai knee jab to your Shaolin repertoire, you have to modify the pattern to conform to established Shaolin form.

In this we are very lucky because adding other martial art techniques to Shaolin Kungfu can be easily done. This is because actually these technqies are already in Shaolin in the first place, though at the time of adding you may not realize it. I have experienced such situations many times. For example, I found that Muay Thai fighters used knee strikes often, so I added them into our combat application. Then I discovered that these Muay Thai knee jabs were like our Shaolin patterns “Golden Cockerel Stands Solitarily” and “Jade Girl Kicks Shuttle”.

When I learned Shaolin Kungfu from my sifus, I practiced picture-perfect kungfu forms. When I sparred with my classmates, we all used kungfu forms. In my learning days, I did not practice sparring against other martial arts. In other words, none of my classmates used Karate, Taekwondo, Kick-Boxing or any other martial arts to spar with me.

Yet, when I went out to spar with other martial artists, I had no difficulty at all in handling them. In fact it was at least three times easier to beat non-kungfu martial artists, including ferocious Muay Thai fighters, than to spzr with my classmates.

I let them make their first moves. When their attacks were spent and they had not recovered from their initial momentum, I moved in to strike them or subdue them with chin-na techniques. I didn't have to create my victory; my opponents handed me their defeat. Usually they were in such awkward positions that they could not defend agains my strikes. Or if I applied any chin-na techniques on them, they had no counters in their repertoire to respond.

But this was not the case with my classmates. They never handed me their defeat; because of their good stances they never placed themselves in awkward posistions. If I applied chin-na techniques on them, they could easily neutralize them. My sparring with classmates usually would go on and on, whereas I could normally defeat martial artists of other styles within a few moves.

But when I taught similar techniques to our students, they could not apply them as effectively to sparring partners using non-kungfu forms. I discovered that this was due to a vast difference in skills. I had spent years practicing the basics as well as combat sequences. When a Boxer attacked me with fast jabs or a Taekwondo exponent attacked me with high kicks, I viewed them as kungfu exponests with fast strikes and powerful kicks but poor forms. I avoided their strong points (the fast jabs and powerful kicks) and attacked their weaknesses (their poor stances and exposed areas).

But students who attended my regional or intensive courses did not have my depth of skills. They did not veiw their opponents as poor kungfu exponents but as Boxers with fast jabs and Taekwondo exponents with powerful kicks.

In my case, it did not matter much what attacking techniques they used; it was my superior skills that overcame them. Had my opponents used Judo throws or Jujitsu locks, I would still defeat them with my superior skills.

The case of the students was different. Because they lacked the skills, they had to depend on techniques. Their response to a Boxer would be different from that to a Taekwondo, Judo or Jujitsu exponent.

So I had to introduce the main attacking techniques of various martial arts for our students to practice sparring. But once they had the skills to apply these specific techniques, they found it easy to defeat their opponents. A main reason was that these other martial arts had a lot of innate weaknesses.

When a Boxer threw fast jabs, for example, his middle and lower body was exposed. When a Taekwondo exponent executed powerful kicks, his balance was affected. If our student kicked at the middle or lower body of the Boxer when he jabbed, or felled the Taekwondo exponent after avoiding his kicks, they would have difficulty defending. They also had no techniques in their arts to counter such attacks because such attacks were not allowed in their arts.

Hence, we had to modify the Boxer's jabs to resemble Shaolin punches, and the Taekwondo kicks to Shaolin kicks. In this way, we could not only minimize the weaknesses of the non-kungfu forms, but also be able to respond effectively to counter-attacks.

In other words, if you add a Boxing punch or Taekwondo kick to your Shaolin Kungfu, and use it in sparring, you would expose yourself in your attack, and if your Shaolin opponent exploits your innate weakness, you would find it more difficult to counter. But if you modify the Boxing punch or Taekwondo kick into a Shaolin punch or a Shaolin kick and use it in sparring, you would cover yourself adequately in your attack, giving your Shaolin opponent no innate weakness to exploit. If he still attacks you, you can counter his attack more easily.

Question 5

Is it appropriate for a specialized set to continually evolve as the practitioner evolves? For example, I may add patterns to my set later as my force progresses.

Answer

This is natural, especially if it is your personal specialized set. But if it is a specialized set for many people, like “Shaolin Five-Animal”, “Dragon-Tiger Set” and “Monkey Set”, it will be more permanent, though developmental changes are still possible.

Iron Palm

The famous picture of Sifu Gu Ru Chang breaking a pile of bricks with his Iron Palm

Question 6

Recently an article was published in “Inside Kung Fu” referring to Gu Ru Chang and his training methods and breaking methods. Here is an excerpt.

“Placing the palm parallel to the block, not perpendicular to it. ...if you areinterested in genuine martial arts and not the fakery employed by thosewho merely want their egos stroked. ...With the genuine Iron Palm, thepalm is parallel and centered. One of the best examples of this comesfrom the most frequently viewed photos in the martial arts world of themost famous and best Iron Palm master ever to live, Gu Ru Chang (Ku YuCheong in Cantonese). Notice in the photos that Master Gu is strikingfrom the correct position, placing his palm parallel to the block he isstriking.”

I basically took it that he is stating his way is the only authentic way.I know you are in direct lineage with Gu Ru Chang and was wondering ifyou could help in the matter of me finding the truth?

— Rodney, USA

Answer

While the manner the author of the article described, which was also the one demonstrated by Sifu Ku Ru Chang in the said photo, is the usual way Iron Palm masters demonstrate in breaking bricks, genuine masters may also use other manners of breaking bricks, including chopping down the palm perpendicularly. Because of his tremendous power, Sifu Ku Ru Chang could easily break bricks any way he liked.

When I learned Iron Palm from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I was taught to strike in three different ways, with the palm flat on a bag filled with iron fillings like what is shown in Sifu Gu Ru Chang's photo, with the inside base of the palm known in kungfu terms as “small heavenly star”, and with the edge of the palm in perpendicularly chopping motion.

Other practitioners use two other manners of striking, namely the back of the palm and the five finger-tips. I asked my sifu whether I should also train these two other methods. He advised me against it, saying that the back of the palm was too delicate for such training as nerves came very close to the surface, and the finger-tips contained meridians which linked to the heart. Constantly striking with the back of the palm or the finger-tips would injure the nervous system or the heart.

Thank you for your compliments saying that Sifu Ku Ru Chang and I are in the same lineage. But actually Sifu Ku Ru Chang's lineage is traceable to the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan, whereas mine is traceable to the southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian.

Question 7

I have practiced traditional Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan for 8 year. Fouryears ago, I wrote you a letter because I had some doubtsabout my practice, and you gave me wonderful guidance and a very kindanswer, which changed the course of my practice, and therefore my health and my skill level.

— Cesar, Venesuela

Answer

I am glad that my answers to your questions on Tai Chi Chuan have been helpful. Continue and enjoy your daily practice.

Shaolin against Boxing

To help our students to be more combat efficient, we have introduced effective techniques to counter opponents using other martial arts

Question 8

My girlfriend was diagnosed with uterine myomas. She had to have surgery to remove them. But the worse part was that the surgeons left about 4 myomas because the surgery was complicated and they could not remove anymore.

I was thinking that the exercises “Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon” followed by “self-manifested chi movement” that appear in your book “The Art Of Chi Kung” can cure her, but I would like to know if you could give me some advice to help her, and to heal her once and for all.

Answer

The health problem of your girlfriend can be overcome if she practices high level chi kung, or consults a good chi kung healer. We have two very good masters in Venezuela, Sifu Piti and Sifu Antonio. They have helped many people overcome so-called incurable diseases. It will be wise for your girlfriend to see either one of them. You can find their contact particulars at http://www.wongkk.com/general/instructors-list.html at the Venezuela section.

“Lifting the Sky”, “Carrying the Moon” and “Self-Manifested Chi Movement” are excellent exercises. They have helped many people recover from their illness.

But the important point is not the exercises themselves, but how they are being practived. In other words, a person learning the exercises from some good books will have very different result from another person learning them from a good teacher.

If a person is already healthy, he can learn the exercises from a book to maintain his well-being, though he would have incomparable result if he learns personally from a master. But if you girlfriend is sick with a serious illness, the benefits she derives from learning chi kung from books would not be strong enough to help her overcome her illness. It is strongly recommended that she sees a master like Sifu Piti or Sifu Antonio.

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